As boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy get older, their muscle strength decreases. Many get a service animal to allow for some independence.
Previously, we discussed cerebral palsy — the disability itself and how it affects evacuations from a school bus.
In this article, we will discuss Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Specifics of DMD
DMD is an actual disease of the muscle that affects males. The disease process causes a progressive deterioration and wasting of muscle tissue.
DMD is a genetic defect in which the mother passes the defective gene to her male offspring. If a mother is a carrier of the defective gene, there is a 50/50 chance that her son will have the muscle disease. If the mother has a female offspring, the daughter will not actually get the disease itself but will have a 50/50 chance that she will be a carrier of the defective gene.
In DMD, the innervations (or messages from the brain to move the muscle) are intact. However, due to the disease process, the muscle is only able to respond very weakly. With time, the muscles become so weak that they cannot respond at all.
Initially, boys with DMD are able to walk. However, around 7 years of age, they will need the assistance of a manual wheelchair. Usually, as the boys get into middle school, they require a motorized wheelchair due to the long distance they need to navigate on a middle school campus.
As boys with DMD get older, their muscle strength decreases, and so in many cases, the family will decide to obtain a service animal to allow for some independence. These amazing animals can open doors, turn on lights and in some cases place arms back on the wheelchair when they have fallen off of the arm trough.
As already noted, DMD is a progressive disease, and as boys become older, their breathing is also involved. They will need to have a tracheostomy to be able to breathe, and eventually they will need the mechanical assistance of a ventilator.
With time, some families will make a very tough decision and will issue a "do not resuscitate" (DNR) order on their boys with DMD. This muscle disease will typically take a young man's life somewhere in his late teens or early twenties.